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Per-student spending irks board member

Patrick Murphy wants the board to study why the county's per-student spending ranks third from the bottom in the state

Patrick Murphy wants the board to study why the county's per-student spending ranks third from the bottom in the state

July 18, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County may have a thriving economy, but the amount of money spent on the education of each child in the county is near the bottom when compared to the other 54 counties in the state, a local school official said Wednesday night.

With a per-pupil expenditure of about $6,256 per student, Berkeley County ranks around third from the bottom in West Virginia, said Berkeley County Board of Education member Patrick Murphy.

Jefferson County's per-pupil expenditure rate is slightly higher at about $6,792, and Morgan County's is lower at about $6,160, according to a graphic Murphy handed out at a board of education meeting.

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Counties with higher amounts include Pleasants County, which spends $8,219 per student; McDowell County, which spends $8,152 per student; and Boone County, which spends $8,112 per student, according to Murphy's figures.

The state average is about $6,953 per student, according to Murphy's chart.

Murphy proposed the formation of a committee to determine why Berkeley County's per-pupil expenditure rate is so low.

"I think we ought to explore this," Murphy told the other board members.

Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon said he supports the idea.

Arvon said he believes there is a misconception that southern counties have a lower per-pupil expenditure rate when it's often local counties that have the problem.

Although Murphy said he does not want to have any preconceived notions about what may be causing the low per-pupil expenditure, he said there are some obvious places the committee can begin to explore.

First, the state gives growing counties like Berkeley County extra money to offset the cost of educating new students who move into the area, Murphy said. Often the extra money lags after the arrival of the students, he said.

And when a new house is built in the county, it might take up to two years before property taxes start rolling into county coffers from the home, Murphy said.

Murphy handed out a sheet to other board members proposing how he would like to see the committee constructed. Murphy is recommending that each board member appoint two people from the community, that Arvon appoint two central office staff members and that a teacher be appointed. Murphy said he wants the committee to meet with the Berkeley County Assessor's office and Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith in an attempt to find answers to the problems.

The board is expected to discuss the issue again Aug. 19.

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